Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi has finally made the much awaited decision and declared that The United Democratic Forum Party (UDFP) will be his next political vehicle, this time for a possible run at the presidency. He made the big announcement today, one that was much anticipated across the country, at a press conference in the Kenyatta International Conference Centre at around midday.
Mudavadi also announced his resignation both as minister for local government and as deputy leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), although he will be staying on as Deputy Prime Minister as the latter appointment was part of the National Accord.
“I will be offering myself as a candidate for the presidency on the ticket of the United Democratic Forum Party,” he said. Now there’s a surprise.
It was only as recently as 2 April that a headline ran in The Star newspaper which read, ‘I will not abandon ODM, declares DPM Mudavadi’. On that occasion, a meeting of 450 ODM delegates in Homa Bay, Mudavadi was reported as declaring that he was in the party to stay and would support whoever put forward for the presidency. A month, however, is a long time in politics.
ODINGA vs MUDAVADI SPLIT IN ODM
Mudavadi’s departure from the ODM comes after his efforts to have a clause in the party’s constitution that automatically guarantees the presidential ticket to the party leader amended so that he could run against Raila Odinga to become the ODM’s presidential candidate were frustrated.
Odinga eventually gave in to Musalia’s demands and the ODMS’ National Executive Council (NEC) agreed to a change of party rules that would allow Raila to be challenged for the presidential ticket (Daily Nation, April 5, 2012). However, the two camps were divided on whether the presidential candidate should be chosen by acclamation at a national delegate’s conference or by a secret ballot of delegates at a county level. Raila supported the former while Mudavadi the latter. It was finally agreed that the nominations be held from the grassroots level but a dispute arose and the matter was never resolved. The party was ultimately registered without removing the contentious clause. (The Standard, April 5, 2012)
MUDAVADI’S MOVE: ROAD TO THE PRESIDENCY OR JUST A DEAD END?
The deputy prime minister had hinted on numerous occasions that he might just move to a new political home but the question was where to?
Mudavadi’s critics argue that bolting out of ODM will win him few sympathy votes and not the presidency, adding that his presidential dream remains in ODM, probably after an Odinga presidency.
“Musalia Mudavadi is a bright political star but his star can only shine brightest within the orange constellation”, said Ababu Namwamba, ODM parliamentary group secretary.
Stanley Rotich, a politician from the South Rift, believes that Musalia’s presidential chances are best outside the ODM and that he was unlikely to win the ODM ticket from Odinga. Mudavadi’s chances would however depend on his choice of a new party and running mate, says Rotich.
Whether Mudavadi stands any chance of becoming Kenya’s next president remains to be seen. To do so he will have to become Raila Odinga’s main challenger and there are still one or two other candidates who covet that position.
Some of the factors that might go against Mudavadi are that he is still seen as being attached to the Moi regime which was considered as corrupt. Some people also think that he’s too soft to be the CEO of this country. He also does not have a commanding support from the Luhya community where he comes from.
OPINION POLLS GIVE MUDAVADI SOME ENCOURAGEMENT
However, if an opinion poll published today by Ipsos Synovate is anything to go by, then Mudavadi as a presidential candidate is a player.
The poll found that in the absence of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as candidates (due to proceedings in The Hague) Kalonzo Musyoka would become Raila Odinga’s main challenger, with Raila on 34 per cent support, Kalonzo with 19 per cent and Mudavadi on 10 per cent. Moreover, a run-off between Raila and Mudavadi in a second round of a presidential election (because no candidate received 50 per cent + 1 in the first round, a likely scenario) would give Raila a narrow victory of 43 per cent against Mudavadi’s 41 per cent with the remainder of voters ‘undecided’.
Some political analysts think that Mudavadi would be an obvious compromise choice for the Uhuru-Ruto axis should they be barred from contesting or accede to pressure not to stand, especially as such a move would be popular among the older Kalenjin.
Musalia Mudavadi will be fully aware of such calculations. Ever since the prospect of Kenyatta being unable to run for the presidency arose, the former deputy leader of the ODM has been looking at his route to the presidency. Today he took another step along that road.